Endocrine Society Increases Global Recognition in EDC Field
The Endocrine Society is committed to improving awareness and understanding of endocrine-disrupting chemicals (EDCs) in the U.S. and globally. Since the 2009 release of its Scientifi c Statement on EDCs, the Society has advocated for more research on EDCs and for the endocrine perspective to be incorporated into chemical risk assessment paradigms. Because of the Society’s scientific expertise, it has been able to infl uence policy decisions and it has become recognized as a leading scientific organization in this area. In recent months, the Society has advanced its global agenda on EDCs through participation in the Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICM), a global policy framework to protect people and the environment from hazardous chemicals. The Society also worked to ensure that the European Parliament takes the latest endocrine science into account as the European Union seeks to regulate EDCs.
Brussels Events Build Society’s Reputation as Thought Leader in EDC Field
On November 11, 2014, the Society hosted a special event for members of the European Parliament in Brussels, Belgium. More than 30 people attended the Society’s presentation, including four members of the European Parliament (MEPs) as well as other policy makers, journalists, and representatives from environmental health non-governmental organizations.
MEPs Sirpa Pietikainen (Finland) and Pavel Poc (Czech Republic) sponsored the event and framed the conversation about the threat posed by EDCs. The presentations prompted spirited discussion about the best way to regulate EDCs. The event helped establish the Society as a key resource and advisor for policy makers seeking to understand and address this issue.
In conjunction with the Parliament event, the Society held its first-ever media event in the EU. The Science Writers Conference on Endocrine-Disrupting Chemicals took place at the International Press Centre in Brussels on November 12. The Daily Mail wrote an in-depth article previewing the conference. The event also generated attention from CNBC. Seven journalists and public information offi cers attended the event, including representatives from Le Monde and New Scientist magazine.
Featured presenters from the Society’s EU EDC Task Force were: R. Th omas Zoeller, PhD, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, MD, PhD, Barbara Demeneix, PhD, DSc, Remy Slama, PhD, and Richard Ivell, PhD. The event laid the foundation for the Society to serve as a key source for European journalists covering EDCs and the regulatory process.
Highlights from the Science Writers Conference are available on the Society’s YouTube channel as a valuable resource for other journalists.
Society Members Bring Endocrine Perspective to Global Meeting on Chemical Management
On December 15 through 17, the Endocrine Society discussed key endocrine concepts and principles that should be incorporated into the SAICM. Endocrine Society experts from the Global EDC Task Force, Th omas Zoeller, PhD, Jean-Pierre Bourguignon, MD, PhD, and Riana Bornman, MBChB, delivered comments at the second meeting of the SAICM Open-ended Working Group in Geneva, Switzerland.
The Society’s public comments emphasized the importance of considering several key characteristics of EDCs in chemicals management approaches. The Society noted that a single hormone will have changing eff ects at different times and places in the body during development and with different sensitivity; therefore, sensitive endpoints with predictive ability must be prioritized to identify endocrine disruptors. Additionally, hormones act at very low concentrations so the eff ects of very small amounts of endocrine disruptors need to be taken into account systematically. Finally, chemical interference with hormone actions during early development can have long-lasting, even permanent, consequences that might manifest years later, and endocrine disruptors can set up the body for mis-adaptation.
The Society also recommended a number of activities for SAICM to consider implementing toward the SAICM goal of “sound management of chemicals throughout their life cycle so that, by 2020, chemicals are produced and used in ways that minimize significant adverse impacts on human health and the environment.” The Society recommended that SAICM:
- Assemble a list of EDCs and sources of exposure from the UNEP/WHO State of the Science report and make it publically available and regularly updated on the UNEP website by 2015;
- Conduct substantial monitoring studies of EDCs by 2018 in countries selected in the four UN regions based on stakeholder proposals;
- Gather and disseminate examples of best available practices in reducing the use of 20 EDCs, including safer substitution, nonchemical alternatives, and risk-management by 2018;
- By 2020, derive strong public health and environmental protection policies from understanding of how chemicals disrupt normal physiology;
- Finally, prepare and conduct robust awareness-raising beginning in 2015 and continuing until 2020, involving healthcare and medical professionals and including outreach to vulnerable groups.
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Inside Washington: What to Expect from the New Congress
The 114th Congress officially opened January 5 in WAshington, D.C., with Republicans in the majority in both the House of Representatives and the Senate setting up one agenda while Democrat Barack obama has the authority of the presidential veto in the White House. The Endocrine Society will continue to advocate on issues of importance to our members including: federal funding of biomedical research, physician payment, diabetes, obesity, endocrine-disrupting chemicals, hormones and aging, and quality improvement. Below is the summary of the major issues that loom large on the congresssional agenda this year and what to expect:
Affordable Care Act
The issue: Republicans have been trying to repeal the healthcare law since its enactment in March 2010. Although they continue to coampaign on repeal, GOP lawmakers have acknowledged that it is essentially impossible as long as President Obama is in the White House.
What to expect: Republicans may symbolically pursue legislation to repeal the overhaul through both the budget and appropriations process by targeting provisions some Democrats have opposed, such as the excise tax on medical devices, the Independent Payment Advisory Board (IPAB), and the 30-hour definition of full-time work. While they may talk about proposals to replace the law, there is skepticism that they could be able to coalesce behind legislation.
The issue: Congress passed a one-year patch to temporarily protect Medicare physicians from scheduled cuts after lawmakers were unable to agree on a way to pay for a permanent policy compromise. It expires at the end of March.
What to expect: The Endocrine Society and others in the physician community will fiercely lobby for Congress to pass a permanent fix ahead of the March expiration date. Although lawmakers came to a policy agreement in early 2014, finding a way to pay for its significant price tag — esitmated to be about $138 billion over 11 years — will continue to be no easy lift and could result in Congress passing its 18th patch since 2013 to avert a Medicare physician payment cut.
The issue: Last spring, House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Fred Upton (R-MI) announced the launch of 21st-Century Cures, a new initiative that aims to accelerate the pace of cures and medical breakthroughs in the U.S. Chairman Upton, along with committee member REpresentative Diana DeGette (D-CO) led the committee in taking a comprehensive look at the full arc of this process — from discovery to development to delivery — to determine what steps Congress could take to ensure we are taking full advantage o f the advances this country has made in science and technology and use these resources to keep America as the innovation capital of the world. During 2014, the committee received input from the National Institutes of Health (NIH), Food and Drug Administration (FDA), and other agencies, as well as the Endocrine Society and other leaders in academia and industry. Now, the committee has announced it plans to introduce legislation early in the Congress with the aim of passing by Memorial Day.
What to expect: Because support of medical research is one of the truly bipartisan issues within Congress and the committee has engaged all stakeholders, many Congress watchers believe this is one of the pieces of legislation that has “legs.” The Endocrine Society has weighed in on several issues related to reducing burdens on scientists, and recognizinig sex as a critical bilogical variable in pre-clinical and clinical research. We will continue to advocate on these issues and keep members apprised of developments.
The issue: The Republican leadership wants to show that it can use its newfound control of Congress to make progress on fiscal and economic issues. It is almost a sure thing that the House and Senate Budget committees will employ a filibuster-proof process known as reconciliation, which can be used to make changes in mandatory spending programs, taxes, and the debt limit. Behind the scenes, Republicans are debating whether to use the reconciliation process to pass more modest changes in policies that have a chance of being signed by the president, or to send President Obama a more sweeping product. One of the most pressing questions is how the budget plans will treat discretionary spending in the upcoming fiscal year, which begins October 1. Under the current debt limit law, the defense cap will rise by $1.7 billion while the non-defense cap will fall by about $1 billion. Many Republicans contend that defense is underfunded, but not all of them are willing to break the budget caps unless Democrats agree to offset spending cuts elsewhere.
What to expect: Like a budget resolution, a reconciliation bill only needs 51 votes to pass in the Senate, not the 60 needed to end debate. But unlike a budget resolution, it is regular legislation, which means it must be signed by the president to become law. In the House of Representatives, it is likely Republicans will craft a plan that shows a balanced budget and the deficit disappearing in 10 years, if not less. The House Democrats are also likely to offer an alternative budget. In the Senate, it is also clear that Democrats will fight any attempts to cut Social Security and other mandatory programs.
The issue: Republican leaders are eager to show voters that they can govern in full control of Congress. But other political factors — mainly the push for higher defense spending and the desire to challenge the president on immigration, healthcare, the environment, and Wall Street regulations — will significantly complicate any efforts to pass spending bills in the 114th Congress.
What to expect: A big factor that could determine whether appropriators can complete their work will be what defense and non-defense top-line spending levels the Budget committees set for the fiscal year 2016, which will guide the work for the appropriations panels. Ther is pressure from many Republicans to increase defense spending for FY 2016 above the level in the current deficit law. Democrats, whose votes would be needed to get spending measures through the Senate, whill insist on equal boosts for non-defense spending. Any budget deal that does not include such a compromise would likely draw a veto threat from the White House. If Republicans pass a budget resolution that boosts defense spending at the expense of domestic programs, like funding for the National Institutes of Health, it could imperil action on non-defense bills. The Republican desire to fight the Obama administration’s signature domesitc policy pieces could also make some sort of spending agreement tough to secure this year. But, any provisions that too severely challenge the president would Cause Democrats to fight and would likely draw a veto from the president, which could put appropriations work in jeopardy and threaten another government shut-down.